The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a large campus of seven museum buildings and generous outdoor space, an institution in the center of town that is endlessly entertaining for all members of the family. The permanent collection is beautiful, with strong showings in the Latin American, Islamic and Asian Art categories. Dropping by the museum to just wander around a few gallieries in the permanent collection, will yield wonderful surprises. The netsuke collection in the Pavilion for Japanese Art is a treasure – kids like walking up the circular pavilion, too. The three story Broad building contains large-scale Richard Serra sculptures, a stone Monet installation was relocated at the museum from a home in Cheviot Hills for which it was created, and this gallery, chock full of slender Giacometti sculptures, could be our favorite room in all of LA. Peruse the museum’s website to stay up-to-date on scheduled events like Target free days, Andell Family Sundays, Film & Lecture series, and more! Also take note that as a part of Arts for NexGen, general admission is free to anyone 17 years old or younger, as well as their accompanying adult.
1. Chris Burden’s Urban Light
To begin your visit, enter LACMA at the Wilshire entrance, where you’ll be greeted by Burden’s unmistakeable and iconic artwork. As your kids walk through and inspect all 202 of his lampposts, have them take note that although they are all painted a uniform grey, no two lampposts are designed exactly alike. Rather, each has somewhat different features characteristic of the various parts of Los Angeles from which they originated. Burden began the project years after purchasing two vintage lampposts at a flea market, and it was installed in front of LACMA in 2008. Tourists and Angelenos have been taking photos here ever since.
2. Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass
Continue your tour by walking around the Broad Contemporary Art Museum and across the broad plaza toward 6th Street, leaving the new Resnick Pavilion on your left. Levitated Mass dominates the landscape, and the story of its journey may be almost as interesting as the installation itself. Last March, the 340-ton boulder Last March, the 340-ton boulder was transported from the Stone Valley Quarry in Riverside to the 6th street entrance of LACMA. It took ten whole days to make the journey, so keep your cameras at the ready. There are plenty of great photo opportunities to be had here, as well.
3. Metropolis II
Backtrack a bit to enter BCAM, where Chris Burden’s whizzing, whirring masterpiece of a model city–complete with skyscrapers and highways–is housed.The piece is most impressive when everything is in motion on Fridays 11:30–12:30, 1:30–2:30, 3:30–4:30, and 5:30–6:30; or Saturdays and Sundays 10:30–11:30, 12:30–1:30, 2:30–3:30, and 4:30–5:30. Every nook and cranny of Metropolis II has some unique aspect, so allow ample time to explore. Watching the whole contraption shut off is also quite a sight. Although there are so many moving pieces, every car comes to a halt in a matter of seconds, leaving the room much quieter than expected. Plus, kids will love watching a docent climb in and out of the structure to shut it on or off. For the most avid of fans, real retired Metropolis II cars are available for purchase at the gift shop, but owning a piece of this artwork will cost you…almost $300.
4. Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Shafted)
Most kids probably find elevators commonplace, but Kruger has added an interesting dimension to the every day act of going upstairs. Her piece, also housed in the BCAM, is a 94x18x12 foot digital print installation inside an elevator shaft. We suggest taking some time before the elevator reaches you to examine the print. Then, enjoy the ride up a floor or two to take a look at other pieces in the building. Don’t miss Richard Serra’s Band, an impressively large steel sculpture on the ground floor that kids are welcome to dart in and around.
5. The B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Garden
When you exit BCAM, face Wilshire and head to the left of Urban Light to enter the world of French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Primarily done in bronze, this collection of sculptures ranges from Rodin’s depiction of The Prodigal Son to the legendary Orpheus. The pieces are beautifully staged outdoors among tall palm trees and trimmed grass, offering an excellent alternative to the more traditional indoor museum experience.
6. Jesús Rafael Soto’s Penetrable
No, it’s not spaghetti. In fact, this piece contains hundreds of plastic yellow hoses hanging from an aluminum and painted iron structure. And while plenty of the art in LACMA’s galleries are hands-off, this is an interactive piece that allows the viewer to see it from all angles, even directly inside it! Kids will love creating their own pathways through the dense maze of plastic hoses. Penetrable has been known to be the sight of many holiday card photo shoots; who knows, perhaps you and your family will opt to include Soto’s work in your next holiday card. You can get to it simply by climbing the stairs out of the sculpture garden and towards the main plaza. When you see lots of yellow, you’ll know you’ve found it.
7. Coffee and Milk
Across the plaza from Penetrable is a decadent little coffee shop, centrally located beside the ticket office and perfect for a mid-tour snack. C+M’s cappuccinos and pastries are works of art in and of themselves, complete with pretty foam designs and brightly colored macaroons. Their milkshakes are highly acclaimed, particularly among the world of ice cream loving children. For parents looking for a more satisfying meal option, C+M offers a small but delectable selection of sandwiches. We recommend one with artichoke, peppers, and asparagus! There is ample seating both inside and outside, so families can take advantage of the warm summer sun, or hide from it as they see fit.
8. Boone Children’s Gallery
For any child—or parent—with a flair for creativity, the Boone Children’s Gallery should be a top destination. Located on the first floor of the Hammer Building (just to the right of the ticket office), the gallery provides young artists with paper, brushes, and all sorts of colors to apply their inspiration. For ideas, have your kids wander through the adjacent exhibits of Chinese and Korean sculptures, pottery, and canvases. The children’s gallery is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 11-5, and weekends from 10-5; it is closed on Wednesdays. Mondays and Fridays from 2-2:30, staff members hold story time and read various Chinese and Korean folk tales, another great kid-friendly activity.
9. Art of the Ancient Americas
Make your way out of the Hammer building and across the main plaza to the Art of the Americas building. The fourth floor is home to a fantastic collection of Latin American art, from Mexico to Guatemala and Uruguay to Chile. We suggest starting at the entrance closest to the restrooms. The wooden floor-to-ceiling decorations are bound to impress youngsters, and the first few rooms include a fun assortment of ceramic and wood figurines and vessels. Moving through the exhibit, you’ll find plenty of oil on canvas paintings by Antonio de Espinosa, even more Spanish colonial paintings, and a myriad of gold and silver pieces from Bolivia. The other end of the exhibit contains one piece in particular by Julio Le Parc entitled Virtual Circles, a fascinating assemblage of wood, aluminum, stainless steel, and polished metal. This reflective work of art is intended to make an active participant of a passive observer, and kids will have plenty of fun examining this illusion-like piece.
10. Pavilion for Japanese Art
Exit the Art of the Americas building and head right. Besides a wonderful art collection, the Pavilion for Japanese Art offers two other fantastic aspects: intense air conditioning and a gently sloping ramp, which winds up and around the building and seamlessly leads art lovers of all ages through the best Japan has to offer. The design of the building itself is a nice break from the more traditional separation of exhibits by floor, as the ramp allows each piece of art to closely relate to the next. The pavilion features beautiful paneled screens with various painted landscapes, an earthenware collection complete with a miniature horse that will delight children, and some Shinto masks that are known for their use in traditional Japanese dances. Something else to be on the lookout for is the Netsuke Gallery on the main floor of the pavilion, home to a large variety of small animal figurines that are strung among the folds of originally pocket-less kimonos to create a makeshift pocket. Some netsukes are available for purchase for $22 in the gift shop.
Past articles about LACMA
Art + Technology Laboratory at LACMA
Calder and Abstraction at LACMA
James Turrell: A Retrospective at LACMA